Is freezing rain dangerous? Indeed, freezing rain may not sound like a big thing in the first place, but it can create some hazardous conditions.
Is freezing rain dangerous to drive in?
Well, it probably is, but it all depends on various factors, including the intensity and duration of freezing rain.
And that leads to another question, “If freezing rain is hazardous, exactly how much freezing rain is dangerous?”
Freezing rain can be dangerous due to slippery surfaces, property damage, and travel disruptions, but it depends on its intensity and other factors.
Is Freezing Rain Dangerous or Not?
When the right climatic conditions come together, freezing rain can form.
It takes shape when three layers of air, one above and two below freezing, come together.
Raindrops form as snowflakes fall through the sub freezing layer.
When these raindrops hit the cooler layer near the ground, they become supercooled, a state in which the water is still liquid while being below freezing temperature.
These supercooled droplets instantaneously freeze upon contact with surfaces at or below freezing, generating a coating of ice.
That coating can cause a slippery surface, making freezing rain a potentially dangerous weather occurrence.
How Can Freezing Rain Cause Problems?
Because ice can make surfaces so slippery, this phenomenon can be dangerous for both pedestrians and motorists.
Some of the potential consequences of freezing rain include:
- Property Damage
- Personal Injuries
- Travel Delays
Freezing rain creates dangerously slippery surfaces that pose a threat to both people and motorists.
As per the Department of Transportation, over 24% of weather-related accidents take place on snowy or icy pavement.
About 15% of these happen during sleet or rainfall.
Similarly, falls on ice have been a contributing factor in thousands of emergency room visits and hospitalizations in recent years.
Older individuals are at a higher risk of serious injury from falls on icy sidewalks.
Fact: Communities must take precautions, such as prompt de-icing and public awareness programs, to lessen the number of accidents and injuries caused by freezing rain.
Damage to structures, trees, and electrical infrastructure can result from freezing rain’s deposit of ice.
When branches break under the ice’s weight, they might fall and inflict injury or property damage.
As a result, there may be power outages and problems with transportation and communication.
The accumulation of ice owing to freezing rain caused significant devastation across North America during the North American Ice Storm in January 1998.
Outages in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada impacted millions of people and lasted for weeks in some cases.
The potential for severe damage to buildings, trees, and electricity lines caused by freezing rain highlights the importance of thorough planning, routine maintenance, and effective emergency response systems.
Fact: Thousands of communication towers were either completely or partially destroyed by the ice storm in North America with an estimated $4 billion in losses.
Roads can become practically impassable due to freezing rain, leading to delays and accidents.
When rain falls on a chilly surface, it freezes into a layer of ice that can make driving dangerously treacherous and cause delays and accidents.
The worst-case scenario is when roads become completely impassable.
Airports may have to cancel or delay flights due to icy weather, and train stations may see disruptions when rails and overhead wires freeze.
The potential for these disturbances to leave people stranded and cause major delays highlights the importance of regular weather monitoring and infrastructure upkeep.
Factors Determining the Severity of Freezing Rain
When talking about how dangerous freezing rain can be, it is also important to pay attention to factors that can have an impact on the consequences of freezing rain.
How quickly the supercooled raindrops fall and freeze on contact with objects is a measure of how intense a freezing rainstorm is.
Stronger freezing rain causes a more rapid and extensive accumulation of ice on roadways, sidewalks, and other surfaces.
There are already risks connected with freezing rain, such as slippery surfaces, property damage, and transport interruptions, but this additional ice can make things much worse.
Fact: Accurate weather forecasting is essential for proper preparation and safety measures, and understanding the strength of freezing rain is a key component.
The duration of freezing rain is a major factor in the intensity of its effects.
It is possible that thicker ice coatings would build on diverse surfaces if freezing rain occurrences lasted for longer.
It is more difficult to remove these layers, and they can do more harm to trees, electricity lines, and buildings if they fall.
Keeping tabs on such severe weather conditions is essential, as it allows local authorities to be better able to prepare for the potential effects of freezing rain events.
The severity of circumstances induced by freezing rain largely depends on the surface temperatures.
When exposed to cooler surfaces, freezing rain causes faster ice deposition because the supercooled droplets freeze upon contact more quickly.
The increased risk of slipperiness and property damage is just one consequence of the quicker accumulation.
Fact: Forecasters and local authorities can reduce hazards and safeguard citizens by issuing timely warnings and implementing safety measures.
The destructive potential of freezing rain varies greatly depending on where it falls.
Communities and infrastructure in areas where freezing rain is common are usually better prepared to deal with the problems it causes.
On the other hand, regions that rarely receive freezing rain may be more vulnerable to its effects since they are less prepared for and have less experience coping with them.
How Dangerous Is It to Drive in Freezing Rain?
It is risky to get behind the wheel in freezing rain because of the slick roads.
Vehicles may have trouble gaining traction on icy roads, which can lead to sliding and accidents.
In addition, freezing rain can impair vision, making it more difficult for drivers to spot and avoid dangers.
Dangers of driving in freezing rain include, among others:
Risks of Collisions
The loss of traction between the tires and the road surface is a major problem when there is ice on the roadways.
This can make it harder to accelerate, brake, or steer, all of which increase the danger of collisions.
Risk of Skidding
This occurs when a vehicle loses traction and slides along the road surface.
When drivers skid, they risk losing control of their vehicles and colliding with other vehicles, obstacles, or even pedestrians.
This loss of control can be perilous at higher speeds or on curving roadways.
As freezing rain builds up on car windows and windshields, it can reduce visibility.
When visibility is already low, glare from headlights bouncing off the wet, slick surface can make things even worse.
Because of the slippery roads, braking is more of a challenge in freezing rain.
As a result, drivers may not be able to stop in time to prevent rear-ending the car in front of them, increasing the likelihood of accidents.
Fact: Freezing rain can cause unforeseen dangers on the road, such as broken trees, and downed power lines, making it extremely dangerous for motorists.
Tips for Driving in Freezing Rain
There are a number of safety measures you can take if you must drive in freezing rain.
- Lower your speed when driving on ice roads to lower the risk of skidding.
- Maintain a safe distance from other vehicles when driving after freezing rain.
- When accelerating, braking, or turning, take it easy to keep your vehicle under control.
- Be especially careful when driving on bridges and overpasses.
- Avoid abrupt steering, braking, or acceleration to prevent skidding.
- Use the defroster and wipers to keep the windshield clear of ice.
Fact: Keep a survival kit in your car with things like water, food that will not go bad, a flashlight, and blankets to deal with any difficult situations after freezing rain.
Is freezing rain dangerous? There is no denying the destructive potential of freezing rain.
We have seen how it can make roads dangerously slick, wreck infrastructure, and disrupt traffic. Do not let that dampen your spirits, though.
Staying safe during periods of freezing rain requires some advanced preparation and an understanding of weather predictions.
Wrap yourself warm, keep your wits about you, and allow for additional time if you must venture out in the freezing weather.